- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Washington Capitals star Jaromir Jagr not only skated a little yesterday but also took some shots, actions that came as a surprise to many.

“I wanted to try it and see how it feels,” the right wing said. It felt good enough he didn’t curtail his time on the ice, going the distance although he did not take part in all the drills.

Jagr injured the thumb on his left hand 10 minutes into Tuesday night’s game in Atlanta while crosschecking an opponent whom he said slashed him. Jagr quickly removed the glove on his left hand and skated directly to the bench and into the dressing room.

He was initially placed in a heavy large cast to protect the thumb from further injury. The lacerations involved were such that a large part of his thumbnail had to be removed so stitches could be put in place.

“Yeah, it hurts but not that bad,” Jagr said. “I’m going to play with three fingers, four fingers, but I play. It’s got 30 hours to heal. We’ll see what happens. The problem may be with the stitches. I may lose a lot of them from the pressure.”

Coach Glen Hanlon seemed enthusiastic but also a bit cautious about Jagr’s return.

“I can hardly wait to get him back,” the coach said. “It’s to the point now where he’s pretty close. He skated today, so it’s going to be a matter of if it’s not today [against the New York Islanders at MCI Center], it’s likely to be Tuesday [against Montreal in another home game].”

Meanwhile, the Caps sent center Brian Sutherby to their top farm team in Portland, Maine, and recalled center-left wing Colin Forbes. Forbes, 27, played in 26 games for Portland this season, leading the team in points (23) and assists (15) and tying for second in goals (eight). Over the last two seasons, he has appeared in 33 games with Washington with five goals and eight points.

Sutherby long has been cast as one of the team’s future stars and leaders. He was taken in the first round by the Caps in 2000 but has only four goals in more than 100 games, not what was expected.

“We’re very leery about evolving this player into a nonscoring, fourth-line player,” said Hanlon. “Our read on Brian is more of a second-line forward that should be able to score some goals. And he hasn’t for two years. At his age, he should be on the power play, so we have to put him on a level that will allow him to play.”

Hanlon emphasized that the move is not punishment but is designed to give Sutherby a chance to improve his development and versatility.

Notes — Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who is averaging nearly 28 minutes a game, did not practice yesterday under Hanlon’s orders. Three other players were given an option and practiced. Center Michael Nylander also practiced, continuing his rehab from a broken leg. …

After eight years in the league, the Caps had a record of 3-29-4 vs. the Islanders, but things have changed. Washington now leads the series 77-70-13 and is 25-1-3 in its last 29 games against New York, the one loss coming more than three seasons ago. At home Washington is on a 15-game unbeaten string against New York. … Tonight’s game starts at 6:09p.m., an hour earlier than usual.

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